Over the last two years, I invested a lot of my time and energy in blogging. But not only blogging — it’s been about learning new things, doing new things, and publicly putting my journey on display.
The net result was quite valuable, of course. When I set goals in private, they easily get overlooked, but when I openly, publicly commit to a plan of action in front of an audience of my friends, I don’t like to fail. I don’t want my friends to see me fail.
More than that, however, the blogs have been an outlet for thoughts in my mind when I didn’t have anyone around to talk to. They’ve given me a place to confess weaknesses, to share my excitement, and hopefully to help others learn from my own experiences.
Lately, my life is full and I don’t have the time to write. I have a full-time job that I love — actually, more than full-time. Whereas in other positions, I’ve had so little to do that I could actually crank out a blog post right from the office most days, but now I have a job that I love and I often find myself working non-stop at the office, and then bringing more work home and working all through the night. And this is not because I’m a slave, it’s because I love what I do.
Further, I’ve been finding better friends and spending my time with better people. Whether it’s been my dance partner, or the girl who helped me practice Italian, or great group of people I work with, I’ve been making better relationships and finding less need for a place to share what’s on my mind.
You see, when I first started all this heavy blogging, I was pretty lonely. The closest person in my life had just left me, and left a big hole that I didn’t know how to fill. In the past, I’ve had a tendency to jump quickly from one relationship to the next, which allowed me to hide a lot of things from myself and allowed me to avoid actually facing difficult periods in my life. But this time was different.
When this happened, almost 2 years ago, I didn’t run to a new relationship. Instead, I began focusing on myself. I spent a lot of time alone. I accepted that I had a lot of things to learn and I started down a path toward learning them, and toward improving my life by improving the person that I am.
All of these big things that I’ve been doing? They’re steps in an even bigger plan. Traveling gave me interesting things to talk about, and interesting experiences to remember and to use in my life. Running has given me the mental strength to take on long, difficult, seemingly impossible tasks. Language study has given me a somewhat unique for others to associate with me, as well as an impressive social skill. Dancing has given me confidence and social grace, and the comfort to be a leader. Minimalism has caused me to strip away all the baggage and all the bullshit that’s been with me my whole life. My current level of physical activity has me in the best condition of my life. I look great, I feel great, and I’m a better, more interesting person to be around.
I’d love to continue documenting my journey, including writing the best portable air conditioner reviews and sharing it with anyone who’s interested, but I feel like the point is gone. The journey is becoming less interesting — or at least my telling of it. Not to mention the fact that I just don’t have the time any more…
I will most likely keep the Yearlyglot site up. I may continue to add to it from time to time, and I will probably continue to give attention to language learning on a yearly basis. But I think the rest of my online presence is going to begin to fade away… starting with this site.
I appreciate all of you who have read this and followed along on my journey.
Something strange happened this week.
I returned from New York early Monday morning and went straight to work. Then after work went out for drinks with a friend. All this time, I still had with me my backpack in which I had taken my clothes for the weekend.
But somewhere along the way, I misplaced my bag. Frankly, I just forgot about it. I left it on the bus when I got off. It was only after some time had gone by that I finally realized that I didn’t have it, and I realized that a large portion of the few remaining things I own were probably gone forever.
But the weird thing was that I wasn’t very concerned. I stood on the sidewalk thinking about what I’d be losing — nearly half of my wardrobe along with a few of my other remaining possessions — and the thought of replacing those things didn’t bother me at all. In fact, it kind of excited me!
It’s strange; I’m dangerously close to reaching my goal of owning 100 things or less, yet it seems the less I own, the less I care about the few things I still have. Things are losing all their meaning in my life.
In the end, the bus driver was an extremely nice lady. She stopped the bus at the next block and walked back to me with my bag. But now I’m tempted to just throw all that stuff away…
This weekend I met a friend in upstate New York and we ran Warrior Dash together. It was a lot of fun, but it was also much more difficult than I had expected.
I’m doing runs of 3 miles or more several times per week, so knowing that the Warrior Dash course was only 3 miles, I expected it wouldn’t be terribly difficult for me. I was wrong.
I’ve been running in the very flat city of Chicago. In all of that training I’m doing, there is almost no climbing. But New York is not flat. And worse, the Warrior Dash course was designed in such a way that it was more than 2 miles of climb, and maybe 1 mile of (steep) descent. I was pretty gassed right from the start.
I made it, and it was fun, but wow… holy cow was it hard. And it served to remind me that regardless of how well I’m doing en route to my marathon, I’m still not in particularly great shape, and I’ve still got a long way to go.
I love it when I learn something that becomes a metaphor for something else. That’s what happened this week at dance class.
I always felt clumsy and uncoordinated on a dance floor, and I thought attending dance classes would teach me the footwork I needed in order to get past that. But I’m finding that the most important thing in dancing isn’t the footwork at all… it’s actually all in the hands.
When the dance goes well, it’s because the lead went well, and when the dance goes badly, it’s because the lead went badly. I could have terrible footwork and no clue about the steps, but if I feel the rhythm and provide a good lead, my partner will dance well. Meanwhile, I could have perfect footwork and amazing steps, but if I give a weak or indecisive lead, my partner will be lost and the dance will fall apart.
As it turns out, this is a huge realization for me. My whole life, I’ve been a believer of such advice as “lead by example” and “don’t be pushy”. I’ve always been the type of person to provide a suggestion and then get out of the way so people can follow it if they want.
And interestingly, this came through in my dance as well. For turns, I would put my hand up and wait for my partner to spin. For changes in step, I would just sort of change and hope she was paying enough attention to notice, and follow. Basically, I was “leading by example” and putting all the responsibility onto the follower to, well, follow. (That’s your role, so do it!)
This week at dance class, I realized what was happening and I changed my style of lead. That is to say, rather than just putting my hand up and waiting for a turn, I figured out how to gently pull my partner into a turning motion, and rather than confusing her when I changed steps, I figured out how to gently push into a direction that tells her the change before I do it.
Basically, I learned how to be a leader.
It’s weird to think of this being such a revelation at 35 years old, but I suppose it’s better late than never. Our partners want to be led; they need a gentle push to tell them which direction to go. Indecisiveness breaks the step, so don’t go there until you’re sure. Leading by example is hard to follow. It’s dancing, but it’s also life. That’s cool.
There’s something energizing about reaching the half-way point. This really stood out to me yesterday morning as I decided to challenge myself to 13 miles — 3 more than my previous longest run.
The first two miles were easy, but the next four started to feel like drudgery. It sucks when you’re going and going and you’re not even half-way yet. But then it happened.
I hadn’t yet turned the corner, but I looked at my watch and saw that I had gone 6.32 miles. For all practical purposes, that was half-way. And when I looked up, there was the sign for the street where I would turn.
My body was already tired and in pain, but suddenly I felt energetic again. After that, every step put me closer to home.
And now, with both knees in pain and my achilles tendon inflamed, soreness in places I didn’t know I had muscles, in spite of the fatigue of three months of torturous training, I’m feeling energized again by the realization that I’ve reached half way: yesterday, I ran a half-marathon.
There were no crowds cheering. There was no finish line. I didn’t get any congratulations. But silently and alone, I reached a huge milestone: the half-way point. This thing is no longer the impossible. And from here out, every step gets me closer to home.
Tonight was the third dance lesson. As usual, it was half an hour of swing and half an hour of salsa. The salsa was a bit imperfect and, well, that’s just how it goes.
But swing finally started to show some promise tonight. In fact, we’ve been learning to slower music, and when the instructor put on something a bit faster we were both scared. But as it turns out, swing is easier with a bit more pace to it!
Basic back steps, inside and outside turns, and a couple of different frames, and we were on our way! For the first time in my life, I felt the ability to be a dancer, rather than just part of a couple rocking to the beat of a song… and that was truly exciting. Not for an entire song yet, but long enough to feel like we were doing something we felt, rather than something we’d memorized. If for nothing else, that feeling alone was worth the cost of the lessons so far.
Last week, I ran a torturous 9 miles. It was miserable and painful and frankly, dangerous. But it was a learning experience
What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger, and certainly this week I am stronger. I just completed a 10-mile run, and there was quite a bit that was different this time.
Foremost, I’ve learned the importance of the night before and its effects on a run. Last night I ate well, and I limited myself to two beers, in spite of having been at Three Floyds Brewery. Instead of waking up empty and dehydrated, I woke up comfortable and energetic.
Also important, I drank plenty of water before I left to run, and I planned a route that crossed several fast food locations, where I was able to periodically rinse off in the restroom and sip some water.
Finally, I got out the door early, so that hottest, hallucination-inducing sun would come after I was home and done.
The difference added up. My time this week was 1:59, which is the same as last week, but I ran ten miles this time rather than the nine I ran previously.
Now I’m excited. I’m now getting into half-marathon territory. A half-marathon is 13 miles, and given how I felt, I know that I could have gotten out those last 3 today.
With 12 weeks remaining until the Columbus Marathon, I’m starting to feel pretty confident that I can do this!
Every time I go out for a 3- or 4-mile run, I make a little progress, and I feel great about where I am in comparison to where I started. But the progress isn’t enough to get me to where I need to be 12 weeks from now.
I decided I needed a good, long run this weekend to get me over the hump of all these shorter, more comfortable runs I’ve been doing, and yesterday I set out with the intention of going 10 miles.
I had a positive attitude and great expectations, but not much else going for me. This summer’s oppressive heat was staved off only slightly by an overnight rain, and some cloud cover to diffuse the heat of direct sunlight — in other words, I was lucky it was only 84 when I went out. I also hadn’t eaten breakfast, or dinner the night before, when I went out.
I was not prepared.
The first two miles went really well. In fact, I think I set a new best time on my first mile, coming in at under 9 minutes. And I didn’t walk for my first time until the end of the second mile, which is great for me. But by the end of the second mile, my mouth was a mess. I needed water badly, so I ducked into a McDonalds restroom where I wet my face and drank some water.
On the third and fourth miles, I took short walking rests every half-mile — more as a result of waiting for traffic lights than my own fatigue. But I was still really dry and thirsty, and it was starting to get hotter. Unfortunately, I had just entered a part of the city where there are no restaurants to duck into.
At mile five, I began to hallucinate. I felt as if my mind had separated from my body, and I was now operating a video game controller. I felt nothing. This seems like a bad thing, so I slowed my pace a bit, but I was 5 miles from home so there’s no way I could stop.
This out-of-body experience lasted almost half an hour, and I did not like it. When it finally ended, I was at the 6.5 miles and walking, and I realized that I was beyond half-way and every step I took would get me closer to home, so my mood improved again. I ran the next half-mile without much trouble.
That was the last of any significant running. After the seventh mile, the clouds had begun to clear, the sun had gotten stronger, the heat was terrible and my achilles tendon was throbbing. For the last two miles, I ran two blocks then walked two block, ran two blocks then walked two blocks, my ankle steadily getting worse.
Fortunately, my guess at a 10-mile route turned out to be a 9-mile route. The last two miles were torture, so I’m thankful there wasn’t another one.
I have learned that my carefree attitude might be fine for 3- and 4-mile outings, but over serious distances, I’m going to need to eat properly, pay attention to the weather, and bring water with me.
This might mark the last time I can go out on Friday night after work. At least until after the marathon. Hallucination is serious business. I don’t want to experience that again.
An interesting thing about wanting to dance is, every time I mention it my guy friends make jokes or mock me, but my female friends all say they’re excited or jealous, or encourage me in some way. Whenever I’ve mentioned to a girl that I want to take dance lessons, I almost always get the same response: “Oh, that sounds fun. Let me know if you need a partner!”
So, in spite of the fact that I’m single, I have no need to ever dance alone. And in fact, it actually made the decision a bit more difficult because I had to choose! In the end the decision was easy; I chose a friend who is close to my height, and with whom I am not afraid to make a fool of myself.
Using Craigslist, I found a really nice dance instructor here in Chicago, and have committed to Wednesday evening lessons. I’m paying for several sessions in advance, to make sure that I don’t back out, get lazy, or change my mind. But I don’t see that happening, because….
It’s fun! It’s awesome, actually. The first lesson was just a really basic introduction, and it was only for half an hour, but I knew already that I loved it! We learned the basic steps for salsa and swing, and found ourselves smiling and laughing. A lot.
Also, I’ve heard countless people compare dancing to sex in some way, but I really never could have imagined just how sexy it really is! Looking into someone’s eyes as you move your bodies together, in rhythm, wow!
This may turn out to be my favorite of all the things I’ll do this year…
In recent days, I’ve spent time with several friends who I hadn’t seen in the last month or two, and something cool happened: they’ve noticed and commented on several changes in me.
What stands out most is that everyone who sees me lately is commenting on the fact that I look thinner. And I should! I’m down almost 8 pounds, partly due to changes in diet but certainly it’s mostly from running. (On my last 6-mile run, my Garmin watch tells me I burned 1067 calories!)
But it’s not only that I look different! One good friend commented on how slowly and casually I walk through the city now, reminding me of how I used to speed walk, darting between people everywhere I went. I credit my new relaxed pace to my time in Italy. I still remember the day I arrived home, and how fast everything felt. I feel better without the stress.
Another remarkable experience is the looks on people’s faces when they see my empty bedroom. Those who know me well can remember how I spent every spare moment at my desk, behind a computer. Now, I don’t even have a desk! There really is almost nothing left, and that changes the way people interact with me in this space… for the positive!
Not only do I feel like a new person, but others can see that energy. I’m getting older (this year I’ll be 36!) but I feel younger every day. I’m possibly more active than I’ve ever been. I’m seeing more and doing more than I’ve ever done. And most importantly, I’m doing it all for me, not to impress anyone else, which is ironically the thing that impresses everyone else.